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Technology bulletin

Technology bulletin

Largest fuel cell to power German subs

Siemens Power Generation Group recently delivered what is claimed to be the world's largest polymer-electrolyte-membrane (PEM) fuel cell bank. Weighing 8 metric tons and capable of generating a gross power output of about 300 kW, the PEM fuel cell bank is destined for use in one of Germany's new Class 212 submarines scheduled for service starting in 2003. Submarines equipped with fuel cells of this type, says Albert Hammerschmidt, head of PEM Fuel Cells for Mobile Applications at Siemens, can remain submerged some five times longer than submarines equipped with diesel electric propulsion systems. "Siemens fuel cells are characterized by low operating temperatures, advantageous load change behavior, short turn-on and turn-off times, and compact design," he adds. For further information, contact [email protected].

Appliances that talk--to each other

Domestic appliances that regulate their power consumption, and ovens that download cooking programs from the Internet: Just two of the ideas that Italian white goods maker Merloni Elettrodomestici plans to incorporate in a new line of "Ariston" digital appliances. Merloni started adding intelligence to its appliances in the early 1990s with fuzzy logic and microprocessor control. Now it is taking the digital revolution a stage further by adding external communications to its appliances for real-time control of power consumption, remote diagnostics, and Internet connections. Because the Ariston digital appliances communicate with each other over the domestic power network, the cooker can temporarily halt the washing machine if their combined power consumption exceeds the house's maximum--measured using a current sensor mounted on the house power distribution board. Another idea is to add a modem and telephone jack to a freezer. In the event of power outage, the freezer will automatically call a service center which will then attempt to alert the user by telephone, e-mail, or by sending a text message to their mobile phone. The same system can be used for routine service calls. The most ambitious development is an intelligent oven that is pre-programmed with various cooking cycles for different foods and can download more programs from the Internet to which it is directly connected. That idea is still some way off, though Merloni is working on the next best thing: an oven that connects to a PC, allowing the user to manually download programs from the Internet and then transfer them to the oven. To find out more, call +39 0732 6011; FAX +39 0732 602435.

Tooling technology breakthrough

A new development in layup-molding technology, dubbed CMPTTM, promises to save time and money when fabricating parts constructed of composite materials. Edmund Aversenti, director of operations at General Magnaplate Corp. reports that CMPT can reduce the total time needed to make large toolfaces to six weeks, from the usual six months. A dense, multi-directional, metal-weaving process, CMPT eliminates the need to machine layup molds from large metal ingots or castings. Toolfaces can be made from any alloy including high-nickel INVAR with no sacrifice in accuracy or surface quality. Aversenti says the process complements the growing movement toward replacing metal components with parts made of fiber-reinforced plastics. Initial use is expected in aerospace/aviation, trucks, autos, and electronics, "with other industries soon following." All five General Magnaplate plants are already capable of creating toolfaces with the CMPT process. Contact

Test system screens screens

In order to satisfy customer demand for quality screens at any viewing angle, the French company ELDIM has developed OptiScope, a low cost, compact photometer designed specifically for measuring delay response time, flicker intensity, luminance, and contrast of LCD monitors and other display screens. Containing all necessary monitoring hardware and processing software, the integrated system is suitable for R&D, quality inspection, and the production departments of screen manufacturers. OptiScope functions via an optical probe positioned in front of the screen being tested which sends gathered light via a fiber-optic cable to a detector module. A built-in data acquisition card converts signals from a photodiode to digital form. These are then transmitted via a GPIB bus to a computer with software for processing sample intensity and frequency. Response time, flicker intensity, and other parameters are computed and displayed on a readout similar to an oscilloscope. Software supplied with OptiScope requires 20 Mbytes of hard disk space on Pentium-based PCs with Windows 95, 16 Mbytes RAM, a free 16-bit ISA slot, and an SVGA card with 64K colors. OptiScope meets standards such as EIAJ ED-2522, ISO/TC 159/SC4/W2, and VESA FPDM. For more information e-mail:[email protected].

Low-vibration cutting tools

A new tool that allows faster machining of metal parts is helping the Ford Motor Co. reduce the time needed to bring a new automotive engine to market. Developed by engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and colleagues, the Q-Tool is a shock absorber that damps the natural vibrations of cutting tools used to fashion metal parts. Such vibrations limit how quickly the metal can be machined, and can cause variations in a part's surface finish. The Q-Tool "allows four times higher material removal rates while maintaining a high degree of surface finish," says Alexander Slocum of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. "Experiments at Ford have shown that the Q-Tool can cut in half the time required to manufacture a large die," claim the inventors. As a result, it is key to a Ford program in which the company hopes to produce a new engine--from design to test engine--in less than 100 days. From the MIT Research Digest news office,

Eurofighter nozzle tested

Spain's Industria de Turbo Propulsores (ITP) has successfully completed the first ground tests of its vectorial thrust nozzle for the EJ200 jet engine, which will power the EF2000, the next generation of European fighter aircraft being developed by the Eurofighter consortium. The vectorial thrust nozzle, offered as an option for the 20,000 lb-thrust EJ200 engine, is controlled by a distinctive multi-axis arrangement of three concentric rings and the four standard EJ200 nozzle actuators. According to ITP, the nozzle is smaller and lighter than other vectorial thrust technologies. Other advantages include a reduction in nozzle drag and better take off performance. ITP recently conducted ground tests of the vectoring nozzle fitted to a pre-production model of the EJ200 powerplant. Development work on the nozzle is due to conclude in 2000 and flight tests could commence in 2001. The thrust vectoring variant of the EJ200 has yet to receive any firm orders but ITP believes the next round of Eurofighter orders could hold more promise. It is also developing vectorial thrust options for other airframes, such as the Saab JAS39 Gripen. Eurofighter is Europe's next generation of fighter aircraft and the EJ200 engine is being built by Eurojet GmbH, a joint venture between Germany's Motoren and Turbinen Union, Italy's FiatAvio, Rolls-Royce of the UK, and ITP. Contact Industria de Turbo Propulsores SA, Tel: +34 94 4892100; FAX: +34 94 4892193.

3D imaging creates motion image cards

Panasonic Computer Peripheral Co. (PCPC) has introduced a printer that creates animated videos and morphing portraits. By combining as many as six images, photos, or video clips on one 5- x 10-cm plastic card, the P-M1000 Motion Image Printer can give the illusion of motion. Software from ImageWare Software Inc. (San Diego, CA) makes customized images possible. Based on the company's patented Object-Layering technology, the software lets users import and manipulate any scene, allowing interaction with virtual situations or imaginary characters. Panasonic sees the P-M1000 added to systems in amusement parks, sports complexes, and movie theaters. To find out more, contact

All-purpose antennae

Car radio/mobile antenna producer Calearo, in cooperation with Ohio State University (Columbus, OH), has launched a one-year research program. Goal? Develop a new set of conformal antennae that would address not just radio and telephones, but global positioning satellites, radar signals for lane changing and intelligent cruise control, and possibly television. The idea, says Senior Research Scientist Eric Walton of the university's Electro-Science Laboratory, is to establish a minimum cluster of multi-band, back-light antennas that will span a frequency range of 500 kHz to 5 gHz. The challenge will be overcoming interference. "When a magnetic antenna is integrated inside the glass of the rear window of a car as part of the heating element," notes Franco Rancan, general manager at Calearo, "it amplifies all other electric noise." Working prototypes are expected by the end of 1999. Contact Calearo at +39 0444 90 1311

Heavy-fuel aircraft engine undergoes successful flight tests

A three-party team has successfully test-flown a new, lightweight piston engine on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that can burn heavy distillates, such as diesel or jet fuel. The flight-test team for the heavy-fuel engine (HFE) consisted of personnel from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Evan Guy Enterprises Inc. (EGEI), and Mission Technologies Inc., all of San Antonio, TX. The tests demonstrated taxiing, takeoff, and flight patterns before landing. Operating smoothly on JP-8 fuel, the reciprocating engine produces 25 hp, with no visible exhaust smoke, indicating complete and efficient combustion. Such UFE powerplants could reduce logistical burdens, since they can use the same fuel as jet aircraft, tanks, or military trucks. "The engine is spark-ignited to allow lightweight production engines that meet Department of Defense objectives of heavy-fuel operation for UAVs." says Evan Guy, EGEI president. The engine was flown on a Mission Technologies' Merlin UAV with a takeoff weight of more than 200 lb. "The engine has potential non-aviation applications, such as motorcycles or ground power units," adds Robert Burrahm, program manager in SwRI's Engine and Vehicle Research Div. FAX (210) 522-3547.

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